A Star is Born: Rigel’s Birth Story
At my 34-week prenatal appointment, I had a growth scan done just to make sure the baby was growing well. He was perfect but he was facing the wrong way. The little guy was head up in a complete breech position. At my 33-week appointment, my doctor and I had already agreed that given my hypertension concerns that I should be induced at 38 weeks and change, just to be on the safe side for both baby and me. So at the 34-week appointment, I already knew that I was set to be induced (if I didn’t go into spontaneous labor) on July 2nd. Now knowing that he was breech, I knew I’d have less time than the average pregnancy to get the little guy spun around. If he didn’t spin around I would need to have a c-section since the hospital where I was delivering does not allow breech births.
I wanted to avoid a c-section at all costs so I did all the things you find on the internet to do. I bought the Spinning Babies videos, did acupressure, got my pelvis aligned, put ice packs on my belly, shined a light on my belly, blasted music at my vagina…and nothing worked. His head would drift all the way down to my hip bone and then pop right back up.
The last option to try to get him to turn head down before a scheduled c-section was an external cephalic version. I researched the procedure thoroughly and came to find out that the chances of a successful version were reduced if you were a first-time mom, you had amniotic fluid levels under 10, and if you had tight abdominal muscles. Well, let me just say I was regretting all those crunches I’d done over the last 17 years; I was 3 for 3. My amniotic fluid in the last few weeks of my pregnancy hovered between 7 and 9.5, normal but not enough to really get a baby to flip. I opted to not have the procedure done because I didn’t want to place any unnecessary stress on the baby with such reduced odds of success.
At my 36-week appointment, my c-section was scheduled. Of course, my doctor assured me that should the baby flip at the last minute the c-section would be canceled and I would be induced as originally planned.
I was terrified leading up to July 2nd. I had never had any kind of surgery so I didn’t know what to expect from the anesthesia which was one of the things that scared me the most.
At my 37-week appointment, I had a non-stress test done. My son being his own person did not feel the need to perform for the nurse so he was not very active. My doctor recommended that we go ahead and do another ultrasound, again we could see that he was breech with his feet all the way in my pelvis. We discussed the specifics of the c-section with my doctor. She told me that I would receive a spinal block and it would be about 20 minutes from the time that I walked into the operating room to the time that she would have my baby out.
I was really very sad following that appointment but I had also accepted that this was the way it was going to go. I mourned the loss of the birth that I had always dreamed and hoped for. I was sad I wouldn’t experience contractions or my water breaking, that I wouldn’t be able to test myself that way. I wondered if my body was broken.
My in-laws arrived in town a couple days before my scheduled c-section to help out with things around the house and moral support. I didn’t want anyone waiting around the hospital because I wasn’t sure how long after surgery I would be up and about so we politely asked them to wait at our house until we called and let them know that we were ready for visitors.
The morning of July 2nd I woke up extra early. I did my hair and makeup. It was as if I was trying to control as many things as I could. My husband and I snapped one last picture of the two of us pre-baby in front of our house and we drove to the hospital. A small part of me was still hopeful that the baby had flipped in the night and I wouldn’t have to go through with the surgery.
We arrived about a half hour early. I figured we would probably need to fill out some paperwork and didn’t want it to delay any of the pre-op prep. I filled out lots of waivers and insurance paperwork and then the labor and delivery nurses took me back to a room to prep me for surgery. I changed into the delivery gown I had ordered and put on the cute fluffy socks and headband I had intended to wear while I labored. It was nice to have these things on and still feel like I was in control of something, even if it was small.
My husband tried his best to keep the mood light while they checked my vitals. They strapped on the fetal monitors to check on the baby. I was reassured to hear his heart ticking away just as strong as ever. Then the nurse asked me if I thought the baby may have flipped. I honestly wasn’t sure because he’d been so active in the days leading up to his birth and all of him just felt hard to me. The nurse felt my belly and said: “I think this might be his butt up here but we’ll know for sure when the doctor does the ultrasound.”
Things were relatively uneventful as we joked in the pre-op room until it was time to place the IV. The first nurse tried to put the IV in my left hand. She actually was able to stick me with it but my vein was pretty small and couldn’t hold it. A second nurse attempted to place the IV, this time in my right hand and that vein blew out. Now you have to know that I absolutely hate needles and I have quite a bit of childhood trauma from failed IV placements as a kid. These failed IV attempts were not helping my anxiety but I tried to remain as calm as possible for the baby. I didn’t want to get worked up and have that affect him. They had to bring in a third nurse to finally place my IV. She ended up placing it on the side of my right forearm right next to the bone.
Once the IV was in, my doctor came in to check the baby’s position with the ultrasound machine. Of course, I really wanted to believe that the nurse was right but deep down I knew better. When my doctor glided the wand over my belly it was clear, baby’s head was still up by my right ribs. There was no turning back now, the c-section was going to happen.
The anesthesiologist then came in and introduced herself and asked me a few medical history questions. I told her while I had never had major surgery that required a spinal block, that I had had trouble in the past with local anesthetic that usually required a double dose.
Once that was done, the nurses walked me to the operating room. My husband had to stay outside until they administered the anesthesia, so one of the nurses supported me as I curved over a pillow in anticipation of the spinal block. This was the part of this procedure I had been dreading the most. The thought of something, ANYTHING, going into my spine terrified me. The anesthesiologist must have really taken to heart what I told her about local anesthetic because I felt a couple of pricks and then some pressure on my spine but no actual pain. Within about 60 seconds I could feel my feet going numb and they had me lay down on the table. A few minutes later when the anesthesia had taken hold one of the nurses put in the urinary catheter to catch my urine during the procedure and post-op when I wouldn’t be able to walk around. I didn’t feel it go in. All I felt was them jostling my body around.
Once the catheter was in, they let my husband into the operating room. He stood on my left side behind the curtain. The doctor then pinched me to make sure I was numb and ready to commence.
I was tilted on the table to a slight incline which made the blood rush to my head. My husband would later explain to me that they do that to keep the other organs out of the way. It was certainly a strange sensation to feel two people pushing and pulling on me but not to feel any pain or be able to move my lower extremities. I stared at the ceiling and looked at my husband, who in turn was looking over the curtain to see what the doctor was doing. It seemed like a long time before anything happened but really it was probably about 20 minutes and then I heard the most amazing sound I’d ever heard; I heard my baby cry. And oh what I cry! The strongest lungs you have ever seen. He let out a good cry as he was taken by the neonatologists to be measured and weighed. I couldn’t really see him from where I was but my husband immediately rushed over to check him out and cut the umbilical cord. He weighed 7 pounds and 15 ounces and measured 20 inches long. After a thorough check, he was given an APGAR score of 9.
And then he was brought over to me. I wanted to hold him close but felt like I couldn’t really sustain him in the tilted position I was in, so I only kept him on my chest for a couple minutes with my husband’s help.
We would find out during the surgery that the reason why the baby had not flipped head down was that the umbilical cord had gotten wrapped around his shoulder. We would also learn that my uterus has a slight dent at the top making it a little heart-shaped. While this may have contributed to a lack of space to move in my womb, it’s unlikely that it was a determining factor. Getting tangled up in his cord was probably the real culprit and it meant that we made the right decision in opting out of the external cephalic version and that the c-section was indeed the safest way to deliver him.
The doctors spent a while stitching me back together, which makes sense since they’d gone through 7 layers of tissue to reach the baby. Once I was stitched up, they transferred me to a bed and wheeled me to the recovery room. In the recovery room, my vitals were monitored and the pediatrician came in to check on the newest member of our family: Rigel Louis. We named him after the brightest star in the constellation Orion. From the very beginning of my pregnancy, I had felt that there was an astronomical connection for the growing life inside of me. The night he was conceived we’d gone to watch ‘First Man’ and I remember getting so dizzy and feeling so strange. Throughout the pregnancy other astronomical events took place, culminating with his birth which coincided with a total solar eclipse and a new moon. This kid may very well be the one to invent hyperdrive.
In the recovery room, I was encouraged to try to nurse Rigel. He didn’t seem very interested at that point. I slowly started to regain feeling in my legs which felt like pins and needles as my feet, legs, and abdomen came back to life.
After about an hour and a half, I was taken upstairs to my room where the real fun began. They were giving me Pitocin and IV fluids. I had also received an antihistamine of some sort to help with the after-effects of the spinal block that I received. Apparently, people can experience itching after a spinal block. The Pitocin was to help expel some of the after birth. That’s right, even though I was sliced open I still got to experience the fun of vaginal bleeding, except I wasn’t able to get out of bed until the next morning to deal with it. Since I had a catheter in, they were monitoring my urine output, not much was going into the collection bag even after a couple of bags of fluid, so someone decided that I needed some more fluid.
I was initially discouraged from drinking water because they thought that it would make me nauseous. Once I was allowed to drink water several hours after surgery, I promptly threw it up. I was offered Zofran at this point to manage nausea but I already felt like I’d been pumped full of a lot of drugs and didn’t want to take another drug. I threw up two more times before I finally relented and took the Zofran. By then they had already given me several IV bags of fluid and I had plumped up like a giant blueberry. Still, not much urine was going into the collection bag. That was until I started to drink water. I must have had at least 100 ounces of water and filled up that collection bag within an hour. This reassured the nursing staff taking care of me that they could stop pumping me full of fluid via the IV and my IVs were stopped. I’m still dealing with the aftermath of all that fluid they gave in the form of swelling in my legs and feet.
Around this time we called my in-laws and told them it was okay to come by the hospital and finally meet their grandson. They were thrilled to meet him and while it was incredible to get to see their reaction to Rigel but I will admit I was in a very vulnerable place that first night between coming off the medication, trying to breastfeed, and just getting used to having a new baby that was depending on me. It can be hard to balance wanting to share with family but also caring for yourself. Ultimately, I was happy they were around to share with us.
It wasn’t until the next morning that my catheter was removed and I was allowed to get out of bed. It was a humbling experience to attempt to get out of bed; even on the Norco, it felt like I had been run over by a truck repeatedly.
In total, I would spend two nights in the hospital. Things that encouraged a quick discharge from the hospital included getting up and walking around as soon as I could, good pain tolerance, stable vitals, a good advocate in my husband, and having a bowel moment within 24 hours of surgery.
It was not the birth I had dreamed of but it was the birth that needed to happen to bring this beautiful little soul into my life. I knew I would love him but I never realized just how much I could love someone until I saw his adorable little face. I am over the moon for my son. He’s truly the most incredible baby and I am so excited for all the adventures we’ll share and all the things I’ll teach him.
Thank you for following my pregnancy journey. Now that I’m officially a Mom I hope I can share more honest observations about motherhood.
If you have any great Moming advice to share with me, please feel free to leave it in the comments.
Bursting with love,